When I was twenty I knew EXACTLY what I wanted to do with my life, and I often felt that if I could have barreled ahead without restraint, I would have been where I THOUGHT I wanted to be a long, LONG time ago.  But I am also reminded of two quotes that have defined my life, and how grateful I am at this particular point in time that I didn’t get where I wanted to be thanks to the lessons I learned along the way.

Patience is NOT one of my virtues, as anyone who knows me well can tell you, and yet, when it comes to my art career, I will take all the time I need to get things just right. I had no idea how to make a purse, or where to market one, where to find the hardware…I used to carry a BACKPACK, if I carried anything at ALL, and, anyway,  I’d invested fifteen years of my life in a career as the top gourd artist in the nation. I’d been on HGTV, had articles written on my work in the Wall Street Journal, Southwest Art Magazine and Wildlife Art news, participated in group exhibits, had one woman shows, gave demonstrations at gourd festivals and gallery shows all over the country and even presented a gourd commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the Gombe Research Center to  my hero, Jane Goodall.  I  sold a gourd to golf legend Hale Irwin, was commissioned by the executive producer of the Lord of the Rings to create a piece for the Lord of the Rings; The Two Towers with Golum, Frodo and Sam Gangee, and I still hold the record for the most expensive gourd ever sold at $22,500.

It always bothered me that people spent HUGE sums of money on artwork they left at home.  No one buys Christian Louboutin shoes, a Rolex, a Prada bag, or a Christian Dior dress JUST to leave it in the closet, so why do people buy gorgeous works of art to leave them at home?  It seemed to me you could have an AMAZING accessory that was ALSO an incredible addition to your art collection.

And so, I embarked on the journey of a lifetime when I decided to combine art with function in one of a kind and limited edition handbags…I wasn’t going to line the purses at first, until one very wise woman  pointed out that without a lining, you would hear everything you carried rattling around inside it.  I knew I wanted to work with wood but I didn’t know how to protect the purses against water damage. I knew I wanted to hand bead some of the handles, but the last time I tackled a bead work project with any great enthusiasm,  I wound up with a pile of very expensive seed beads and a loom that gathered dust for years until I finally gave it to the Goodwill.

As the saying goes, “If you want to hear the sound of God’s laughter, tell him your plans” and I am convinced I have had God in stitches most of my life.  I spent HOURS on the internet trying to find fabric and handles and beads and varnishes, craft shows, art shows, wholesale shows and boutiques, and just when I thought I had one aspect of the design process worked out, something else came along to challenge my approach; how do you secure all the things on a travel trailer handbag that make the handbag so fun to carry without sacrificing its function; how do you finish the back of a leopard handbag when the front and the insides are so captivating; how do you wrap images around handbag when it has irregular sides, and THEN finish the entire thing in gold leaf?

Its been an interesting process but, as the other saying I define my life by so eloquently states, “Its the journey, its not the destination”.  I have had some amazing support this past year from some truly remarkable women, and I thank you all for believing in me when I’d started to think this might have just been the dumbest idea I’d ever come up with….

I can hardly believe that 2011 is right around the corner, but I already have two very exciting shows lined up in February and March (The American Crafts Council Show in Baltimore, MD and Natureworks in Tulsa, OK) that are inspiring me to hit the studio with great passion and determination.  I have so much I want to do and such great opportunities ahead of me that the sky is the limit.

There will be more insights in the days to come, but for the moment I just wanted to say to all of you who have been on this journey with me, whether you know it or not, your faith in my work has been the fire that has helped light my way.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart….